A Garden Tip We All Need To Remember This Year

Sometimes gardening seems so easy, and yet sometimes so hard.

And sometimes LIFE seems so easy, and yet sometimes so hard.

Today I’d like to weed through both of ‘em.

Before I get into it today, I’ll mention that the introductory fee on my online organic gardening course – the Smiling Gardener Academy – is going up on Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern Time.

If you sign up before then, you’ll end up saving a lot of money, so if you’ve been thinking about it, be sure to check it out.

It’s definitely worthwhile if you’re looking for a comprehensive video-based course on growing an organic garden.

Click for video transcription

Hey guys it’s Phil from Smilinggardener.com and I have a couple of things for you today. The first is that I want to let you know that the Smiling Gardener Academy that’s my very comprehensive, online organic gardening course.

The fee for that course is going up on Tuesday night at 9:00pm, up to full price it’s been discounted right now. And so if you have any interest in taking this course about learning how to grow nutrient-dense food, and getting rid of pests organically and all that stuff I talk about a little bit on my blog but I go into much more detail, you want to check that out soon before the price goes up because you can save a whole lot of money.

I’ll put a link down below if you want to check that out. Now the other thing is, over the next few days I’m putting out a series of articles and short little videos for free for everyone based on what I feel are really the three main questions I get asked a lot in comments and in emails. And the first question is really just a general question about how can I grow a better garden this year?

Often its because people tried gardening last year, it didn’t work out very well and then found it very frustrating and they just want to know what am I doing wrong? How can I do better? So that’s what I’m going to talk a little bit about today.

Then the next one is going to be about the thing that I get asked a lot because it’s kind of my area of expertise – which is: How can I grow really nutritious foods? How can I fertilize and improve my soil and really get nutrient-dense food? because that’s what I really like to talk about.

So that’s coming up in a couple of days and then in a few days I’ll be talking about controlling pests organically and kind of an interesting perspective on that I hope! So today, I’m not going to go through all this in the video because it’s going to be kind of long so I’m just going to point you to the blog post below to read what I want to talk about. But the main thing is I get this question about What am I doing wrong in the garden it’s just so difficult?

and I was thinking about how it’s kind of the same in life as you guys who follow me know I’ve been going through a pretty challenging situation in my life for the past couple of months. I haven’t really talked about what that is much and I don’t really plant to but it has been really difficult at times and so I’ve gone to get some help.

I’ve seen a therapist a couple of times which is awesome. I went and studied vipassana meditation, did this 10 day silent meditation course that I told you guys about in a blog post recently. And I’ve been studying buddhism a little bit and just reading a whole lot of books. A whole lots of – I don’t know- self-help books and stuff and it’s been really wonderful.

So the last couple of months at times it felt like life is just so hard sometimes like I don’t know what to do. And at times, and that’s kind of where I’m heading now, is life is just so easy, life is so wonderful at times.

And so this kind of happens to us in our life, right? Sometimes it feels so easy and sometimes it feels so hard. In the garden it’s the same kind of thing sometimes in a garden you can just literally just throw down some seeds and give them some water and they grow up and they become plants and you can even get food from them. It just seems so easy.

But gardening is not always that easy sometimes it seems so hard. Like you plant stuff and it gets infested by pests or it just doesn’t grow – like it doesn’t produce fruit. I talk a lot about food which I’m going to do here. Like it doesn’t produce fruit or vegetables and you’re like What’s going on?!

And so, I talk more about it in the blog post below about why that happens but mostly it comes down to the fact that gardening – unless you’re just blessed with beautiful soil – gardening takes some knowledge and some practice and the main thing I want to share today is what I want to help you with.

So if you really want to get into detail about growing a really awesome garden, nutrient-dense food, that’s where the academy comes in and that’s what you should check out before the price goes up.

But even if you don’t want to do that if you want to follow my free videos and blog posts then that’s what I want to help you with. There’s always a place where you can leave me comments and I try to answer those comments starting in June and for the rest of the year I usually don’t do as much posting on gardening I get into other tasks – other hobbies of mine.

But in the spring that’s when I do a lot that’s when you can follow me and check stuff out. I can go on forever about this but I really just hope you’ll read the blogpost down below where i’ve shared some more details on all this stuff. And if you’re on my email list or if you follow me on youtube or facebook or something like that I’ll be sharing this series of posts over the next few days.

Oh ya! I do have a question for you! Really what I want to know from you is What is your most challenging situation in your garden right now? or, if you’re kind of in the North like me and you’re just getting started in the gardening season right now, tell me what happened last year – What did you find very challenging and frustrating in your garden?

If you tell me that I can well maybe offer you some advice but it can also help me figure out what kind of lessons to put together for you guys over the next little while. So that would be great if you would go and ask me that question down below. And if you think you might be interested in the Academy, go click the link and go check that out, too.

We’ll see you soon!

Hey guys it’s Phil from Smilinggardener.com and I have a couple of things for you today. The first is that I want to let you know that the Smiling Gardener Academy that’s my very comprehensive, online organic gardening course.

The fee for that course is going up on Tuesday night at 9:00pm, up to full price it’s been discounted right now. And so if you have any interest in taking this course about learning how to grow nutrient-dense food, and getting rid of pests organically and all that stuff I talk about a little bit on my blog but I go into much more detail, you want to check that out soon before the price goes up because you can save a whole lot of money.

I’ll put a link down below if you want to check that out. Now the other thing is, over the next few days I’m putting out a series of articles and short little videos for free for everyone based on what I feel are really the three main questions I get asked a lot in comments and in emails. And the first question is really just a general question about how can I grow a better garden this year?

Often its because people tried gardening last year, it didn’t work out very well and then found it very frustrating and they just want to know what am I doing wrong? How can I do better? So that’s what I’m going to talk a little bit about today.

Then the next one is going to be about the thing that I get asked a lot because it’s kind of my area of expertise – which is: How can I grow really nutritious foods? How can I fertilize and improve my soil and really get nutrient-dense food? because that’s what I really like to talk about.

So that’s coming up in a couple of days and then in a few days I’ll be talking about controlling pests organically and kind of an interesting perspective on that I hope! So today, I’m not going to go through all this in the video because it’s going to be kind of long so I’m just going to point you to the blog post below to read what I want to talk about. But the main thing is I get this question about What am I doing wrong in the garden it’s just so difficult?

and I was thinking about how it’s kind of the same in life as you guys who follow me know I’ve been going through a pretty challenging situation in my life for the past couple of months. I haven’t really talked about what that is much and I don’t really plant to but it has been really difficult at times and so I’ve gone to get some help.

I’ve seen a therapist a couple of times which is awesome. I went and studied vipassana meditation, did this 10 day silent meditation course that I told you guys about in a blog post recently. And I’ve been studying buddhism a little bit and just reading a whole lot of books. A whole lots of – I don’t know- self-help books and stuff and it’s been really wonderful.

So the last couple of months at times it felt like life is just so hard sometimes like I don’t know what to do. And at times, and that’s kind of where I’m heading now, is life is just so easy, life is so wonderful at times.

And so this kind of happens to us in our life, right? Sometimes it feels so easy and sometimes it feels so hard. In the garden it’s the same kind of thing sometimes in a garden you can just literally just throw down some seeds and give them some water and they grow up and they become plants and you can even get food from them. It just seems so easy.

But gardening is not always that easy sometimes it seems so hard. Like you plant stuff and it gets infested by pests or it just doesn’t grow – like it doesn’t produce fruit. I talk a lot about food which I’m going to do here. Like it doesn’t produce fruit or vegetables and you’re like What’s going on?!

And so, I talk more about it in the blog post below about why that happens but mostly it comes down to the fact that gardening – unless you’re just blessed with beautiful soil – gardening takes some knowledge and some practice and the main thing I want to share today is what I want to help you with.

So if you really want to get into detail about growing a really awesome garden, nutrient-dense food, that’s where the academy comes in and that’s what you should check out before the price goes up.

But even if you don’t want to do that if you want to follow my free videos and blog posts then that’s what I want to help you with. There’s always a place where you can leave me comments and I try to answer those comments starting in June and for the rest of the year I usually don’t do as much posting on gardening I get into other tasks – other hobbies of mine.

But in the spring that’s when I do a lot that’s when you can follow me and check stuff out. I can go on forever about this but I really just hope you’ll read the blogpost down below where i’ve shared some more details on all this stuff. And if you’re on my email list or if you follow me on youtube or facebook or something like that I’ll be sharing this series of posts over the next few days.

Oh ya! I do have a question for you! Really what I want to know from you is What is your most challenging situation in your garden right now? or, if you’re kind of in the North like me and you’re just getting started in the gardening season right now, tell me what happened last year – What did you find very challenging and frustrating in your garden?

If you tell me that I can well maybe offer you some advice but it can also help me figure out what kind of lessons to put together for you guys over the next little while. So that would be great if you would go and ask me that question down below. And if you think you might be interested in the Academy, go click the link and go check that out, too.

We’ll see you soon!

Life

Garden TipGetting ready to film…

So back to today, as many of you know, I’ve been going through a challenging situation in my life, and have found some help in Buddhist teachings and Vipassana meditation.

I also saw a therapist a few times when I was really struggling, which was pretty cool, and have been reading many books like ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘The Power Of Now’ and others you’ve probably heard of before.

I’m not going to say much about the situation itself, but basically, a relationship with a person I very much cared about fell apart and became a source of negativity and pain for both of us. May not sound like much, but it’s been hard – I just didn’t have the tools to deal with it.

(By the way, it’s not my ex-wife Heather – we’re still friends.)

Instead of throwing myself into my work or dark chocolate or some other method of avoidance, I knew I had to hit this thing head on and get some guidance, which I did, and although it’s still difficult at times, I’m overall happier than I’ve ever been, and life is starting to look wonderfully up again.

That’s the cool thing about life’s most difficult situations – they have a way of turning into life’s most positive opportunities for personal growth. That’s what I’ve learned here.

So yes, sometimes life seems so hard, and yet sometimes so easy. Today I’m back to saying THANKS! to life when it throws curve balls, because a lot of good can come from it.

Garden

So, now to the garden and the reason I’m sharing this today.

As with life, sometimes gardening seems so easy. You throw some seeds on the ground, water them, and they grow. You hardly do anything and they grow, and you get FOOD from them!

But it’s not always that easy is it? I know this because I’ve been gardening forever and I still have at least some sort of issue every year in my garden.

Plus I regularly get emails from people who had planted a garden last year, found that nothing grew, and are ready to give up.

The most common 2 complaints are 1) pests eating their plants, and 2) fruit and vegetable plants that don’t produce much in the way of… well, fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes gardening seems so hard.

But what I tell them is that it takes time to learn how to garden, just as with learning to play the piano or anything else, and it takes time to build up a soil that grows plants that don’t get attacked by pests and that produce abundant fruits and vegetables.

So if your garden didn’t do as well as you were hoping for last year, that’s okay, don’t sweat it. You were just like a person learning to play the piano, working on your scales.

And this year you get to practice some more.

Plus this year you have an opportunity to dramatically improve your soil, and to work on boosting overall garden health.

Here’s an email I received from Academy member Leidy who had a great year last year after joining the Academy, after having had a more challenging year before that:

“[I’m now doing] weekly foliar & drench fertilizing. Last year this time it was a different story so seeing this improvement is really incredible. I have about 100 fruit on 3 plants. I also have a container grown habanero last year that produced more than 300 fruit; had a control plant that produced less than half that amount.”

I wanted to share this to show you that things will get a little better this year for you, too. They usually do.

One of the most important things is to not worry, to enjoy the process as much as you can rather than worrying about it too much.

That’s really what I wanted to share today, just a reminder that it’s okay when things go wrong in the garden. It’s just part of nature and it’s how we learn and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad gardener – you’re just learning like the rest of us.

And I’d like to help.

Some of you will want to go all out and join the Academy before the fee goes up on Tuesday, while some of you will just read through my occasional blog posts.

Either way is cool with me – I just want you to have a successful gardening year.

But I’m not going to give you much in the way of band-aid solutions. I do love a good piece of dark chocolate once in a while, but that’s just short term happiness. Ten seconds later, I just want more chocolate, you know?

Instead, I’m going to give you the therapy, the Buddhist teachings, the meditation – the long-term solutions that focus on the root causes of our gardening problems – also the root causes of our gardening successes.

Like how to create a plant so healthy that the aphids go away entirely. In fact, I just talked about that here.

Or even better, I recently shared some tips on how to create such a healthy soil and garden that your food plants not only produce food, but tasty, highly nutritious food too, and lots of it!

Questions

For today, I’d be interested to know:

What is your most important gardening challenge right now, or what did you struggle with last year?

Let me know in the comments down below and I’ll see if I can help. Plus your question will help me figure out what kind of lessons to put together for you guys over the next little while.

64 Comments

  1. jonner on May 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    My dwarf apple trees have patches of bark that seem to be rotting away. These trees ( Jonagold, fuji and royal gala) have produced good crops for 12 years.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Hmm, do you have a photo? Definitely sounds like some type of disease…

  2. Joanne on May 15, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Even though I have a fence around my yard, the little rabbits seem to be able to get under it at will. They like to eat my plants, and I lose a lot of my seedlings that I’ve carefully started indoors a month in advance! They especially love Swiss chard of all colors and varieties, and today I noticed that they’d literally eaten my small cucumber plants. I don’t want to harm the rabbits, but they are really getting annoying, even though I love little bunnies. I’ve tried putting wire fence wrap around everything, but that makes it so much harder for me to garden (and sometimes they defeat that, too). Any ideas about how to best deal with rabbits?

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      The only way I know to effectively keep out rabbits and other animals is with well-designed fences, as well as wire fencing, as you said. I’ve sometimes wrapped just a 2 foot tall chicken wire around my garden that I could easily step over, and that actually seemed to keep the rabbits out, although I’m not sure why because I would have thought they would be able to get around it. You could try my garlic/cayenne recipe that I’ll be sharing on Monday, but that would need to be applied regularly, and it’s also hard on beneficial insects, so the fence is the best long term solution.Has anyone else out there had success keeping out rabbits with other methods?

      • Chris on May 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        Last year I planted white clover in my lawn, and the rabbits prefer that to anything I have in my vegetable garden. They will happily munch clover 6 feet away from my veggies…seems to work so far!!

        • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm

          Beauty! I’ve heard that deer love it too…

  3. Jodi on May 15, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Just wanted to say I loved this post! Last year was my first big year of gardening. Some things went well, some did not. But boy, did I learn a lot. My soil was like clay and that was my #1 thing to resolve this year. We also spruced up the garden with more boxes and a cute walkway this year. I’m sure my garden will do even better this year and I’m so excited about it. I know that not everything will go as planned, but I feel like each year I will learn more and more and the garden will only improve.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Exactly, exactly, exactly 🙂

  4. Kate on May 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    My most important gardening challenge right now is starting a garden from scratch. I just moved and have a blank slate to work with. I have no idea how the soil is in the area. I just tilled a 30’x30′ garden, but forgot to till in compost. So I will add the compost and I suppose hand till it in (I rented a tiller for the main garden)? I have about 200 seedlings waiting to be planted, I just don’t want to plant them in crappy soil.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Sure, just use a garden fork (pitch fork) to work in that compost. Ideally you’d also follow at least some of the tips I’m going to be sharing in my blog post tomorrow in order to improve your soil before planting.

  5. Keli on May 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Other than my tomato plants, the healthiest thing growing in my garden is the weeds. 🙁

    • PC on May 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

      That’s wonderful because some “weeds” are the most nutrient dense foods one can eat and almostpest free. And where they grow is an indication of the ph of your soil. So eat those “weeds” and save some money!!

  6. Phil Woodruff on May 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    ‘Respect’ for the honesty Phil and hope all is going well for you on your emotional/spiritual “journey” ( for want of a better word)My main prob has been horsetail completely over-taking my herb garden (of over 30m wide) looks like I’m gonna have to take everything up and poison it 🙁

    • PC on May 16, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Horsetail: make a cream or lotion out of it and use it on your skin and hair. Poison your soil: poison your system.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      Horsetail can be tricky to get rid of. Can you move your garden? Haha, I know that’s drastic, but that stuff tends to stick around forever. The cool thing is that it’s actually a highly prized plant in the biodynamic world, good for making an organic fungicide, among other things – you could put some in the teas you’ve been making. It tends to favor wet and poorly draining, low fertility soils, so if you can boost fertility and not overwater, that will help. But the plant shouldn’t have a negative impact on your garden anyway. I wouldn’t go the herbicide route, but you could try horticultural vinegar to keep in under control. Roundup won’t do a thing.

  7. addswen on May 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Early tomato blight. Aaargh! What can be done once it’s in the soil? I inherited a garden that grew tomatoes every year in the same spot. The fungus has multiplied to half the garden. I plan to rotate crops (tricky to find space for the peppers and potatoes, too!) and plant disease resistant varieties, but last year those little babies were already sick as seedlings. I’m building new cages to keep the plants off the ground, and will prune the bottom foot. Also adding my own compost plus manure, but feel uneducated on making the soil thrive. I have a thick felt covering that I plant through, to prevent soil splashback. Sounds like foliar feeding is my next step?

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Sounds like my blog post coming up tomorrow will be good for you. Foliar feeding could definitely help, with fertilizers and microbial inoculants, as would balancing your soil fertility by other means than compost/manure (which are great, but can cause some problems when they are relied on as the main source of fertility).

  8. Mornette on May 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Phil! I live in Harare, Zimbabwe ( our seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the complete opposite to yours!) We recently downsized to a townhouse with small garden. I took up gardening about 8 months ago…I’m hooked! I love everything about gardening, but it is also hard work and very challenging at times, and my garden needs constant care and attention! I inherited a sadly neglected garden, with not a single worm, butterfly or bee in sight. My first challenge was to dig out the very rocky red soil and replace it with Eco-compost and echo-mulch, produced locally. I built a worm farm, and my hubby and son built me 3 wooden boxes to grow my veggies. Huge cane rats ate all my broccoli and cauliflower heads…uugghh! Tiny green grasshoppers ate everything else in sight! My new rose garden got black spot, downy mildew, aphids, you name it the roses got it. I am determined to persevere the organic way, but it’s hard at times! We also have major water shortages and store water in large gravity fed tanks. Thanks for your posts, I look forward to reading them each week!

    • Huden on May 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Mornette, I live in the Bahamas and just starter my garden , our water and soil situation are similar but I don’t have rats and crass hopper eating everything . I am also hooked and loving it but white flies and a black fungus is my challenge along with shortage of water and very rocky , shallow soil but I am hooked so I wont give up. Phill keeps me excited . Good luck I know you will make it

    • Geo on May 15, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      ->Mornette … sounds a lot like Arizona. Rocky soil, pack rats, last rain was in January, grasshoppers and it gets so hot in the summer you can cook an egg on the street – really! My garden yielded basically nothing. Last year was better. It has to get better from here! We grow nice cactus though.Geo

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Sounds like your soil will take some time to get into a healthy state, which is common when you replace soil as you have. My blog post tomorrow will be good for you. In the meantime, treat it as a learning experience and it will get a little better each year 🙂

      • Mornette on May 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

        Thanks for your encouragement Phil! Will keep persevering! 🙂

  9. Jess on May 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Trying to find an organic way to rid the garden of Lesser Celandine or Fig Buttercup (without hand digging them all) and keeping Garlic Mustard at bay. The latter is easier to pull…which I have been doing for the past five years but still it remains. The last problem in spring is keeping dandelions at bay. As with the Fig Buttercup the dandelion feeds our bees ( and our salads) but too much of a good thing makes for a invaded yard. And the half life of the dandelion seed is long enough to outlast me. I have had good luck with Phydura Natural Herbicide (vinegar based) but it is too expensive to treat the invasion of the Fig Buttercup. We have had a very wet spring which assists the Fig Buttercup in spreading.On the personal issue…remember that one door has to close before the next one will open.God Bless!

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Ya, I know the Lesser Celandine is on the invasive lists, as it covers the ground in wet areas and will not let much of anything else through. It is edible and medicinal (although somewhat poisonous, so you’d want to do some research to figure out how to use it), but that doesn’t mean you want it all over the place I know. I imagine the long term solution is a combination of horticulture vinegar, along with improving soil drainage (by balancing soil fertility) so it doesn’t stay so wet, along with establishing a hardy groundcover of some kind to take it’s place.

  10. Stars of Orion on May 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Wishing you peace, healing, & strength on your quest Phil. As someone who has also been there, I can attest it does get better/easier. Surround yourself with strong individuals who can encourage you in your journey, keep your heart light, & your mind focused :). Yes there will be times when memories come back to haunt/taunt you but that’s part of the growth process. Nothing to beat yourself up over. Be gentle & patient with yourself. Will keep you in prayer.My greatest challenge right now is trying to grow my Brugmansia (Angel Trumpets) organically. Since this is my first time growing them organically, I’m having trouble discerning exactly how much N I should be giving these things. I don’t know if I’m giving enough or when I should be feeding them. They are voracious feeders & require large amounts of N this time of the season. Have them in Happy Frog potting mix & only use rainwater on them as I don’t want to kill the myco’s (my tap water is hard (pH is 8) & has chlorine in it). Since I had it on hand, mixed in some Dr. Earth Exotic Blend for tropical plants dry fert along with some blood meal & gave them a foliar drench of liquid seaweed. Neither is very high in the NPK range as opposed to the synthetic ferts I used to use so I’m really at a loss as to how much of the organic stuff to give them/when. Brugmansia usually require NPK at 12:6:8 for proper growth & blooms & I worry they won’t be getting enough.Also growing veggies organically this yr. Soil tests said clay with very high P & K so no additional needed but N was very low. Blood meal was suggested as well as compost that did not include manure. Added that & let the soil rest for a few wks before planting. Looking forward to seeing how things go.

  11. Amanda Halak Davidson on May 15, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Phil, From the coastline of NJ, I have not got into growing fruits and veggies yet but I am all about growing flowers for the bees and butterflies . Started a small area and expanded it over the past four years. My biggest problem last year was powdery mildew. It started in the bee-balm and just took over everything around it . My garden was definitely a sad site after July. Curious if there is anything to do about this so it does not happen again this year?

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Mmm, I’ll be sharing a useful homemade recipe for controlling mildew on Monday, and a lot of tips for improving garden health (which will help decrease disease) in tomorrow’s post.

  12. Linda Costal on May 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Wood chucks taking one bite out of each tomato as soon as it was ripe.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      Ya, those devils! Only long-term solution I know of is fencing that extends at least a couple of feet into the ground to keep them out.

  13. Rr on May 16, 2014 at 12:36 am

    My challenge in Northern Michigan is the same as last year, cold, rain so the water has filled all the drainage basins and the soil sqishes under your feet. Tonight snow is forecast. So soil drenching and spraying doesn’t seem to make sense. The sea water I got from you helped the strawberries survive the first frost attack, we had 2 dry days so I could soak them. Since it is an empty lot, zoning does not allow any structures. What to do?

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      The main thing is just to wait until the cold and rain have gone – can’t fight nature on that. Personally, I’m not planting until this weekend. Other than that, if you balance soil fertility and improve soil health (as I’ll discuss in tomorrow’s blog post), that will gradually improve drainage so that the water doesn’t stick around so much, even if the soil is heavy clay.

  14. Lynda on May 16, 2014 at 1:42 am

    My most important gardening challenge is understanding what products to use in fertilizing my garden vegetables. I purchased your beginning and intermediate suggested products but I’m not for sure what to begin with.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I’ll email you Lynda.

  15. Linda on May 16, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Moles!!!!!!!!! Everywhere! Tunneling under my plants, things grow slow and don’t produce like they used to. It’s not voles as roots are untouched, but just hanging in a mole tunnel. Pesky rascals! Now have ultrasonic devices going and a Mole Windmill, so I will see this year whether it has helped! Tried nematodes to kill the grubs, didn’t work. Frustrated!

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      I’ll be curious to hear how those devices work for you.

    • Bill on May 17, 2014 at 7:33 am

      I live in north central Arkansas and on the Saturday morning radio gardening show KTLO they say that Juicy Fruit Gum works fantastic. Put it in the mole holes but be sure not to touch the gum to your skin so as not to pick up the human sent.

    • Phil on February 20, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Update: I now have a post with many options for getting rid of moles and voles: https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-pest-control/how-to-get-rid-of-moles-and-voles/

  16. Kerry on May 16, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Hmmm… at the moment it is asparagus beetle. We have had our asparagus patch for five or six years now and have never had a problem with beetles (would see one now and then, but never had much of a problem). I can’t say it’s even very serious now, but I don’t like to see any of our delicious spears all chewed up. Would love to know how I can keep these at bay. I do cut the old plants down to the ground either in the fall or early spring and then lay them back down in the bed as mulch, so that is probably a mistake. This patch has never had synthetic pesticides and never will. I’m wondering about companion planting– herbs to repel the beetles.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Ya, I’m a big fan of mulching as you have done with the old plants, but you may want to compost them next time to break the cycle. And yes, the main solution I would go for is to companion plant many different kinds of herbs to attract ladybugs and wasps and other predators of the beetles. You could spray neem to control them in the short term, but of course that also harms the beneficials you’re trying to attract, so it’s a bit of a tricky one.

  17. Changchup Dadron on May 16, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Sounds like life is giving you a boost to help better yourself. Good for you for having the courage to meet it straight on! I hope everything works out great for you! Thanks to your tips, I double dug a small 10×12 and had a successful garden last year under a nice layer of leaves and pine chips. This year I found a well meaning “helper” tilled the entire thing into the soil. Is anything going to grow in that or do I have to sift it all out? Please advise. Cheers!

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      Good question. The leaves aren’t a big deal, but if by pine chips you mean pine bark, that could cause some issues. I suppose it depends on what you’re going to grow. It would be fun to experiment by sifting them out on half the garden and leaving them in on the other half – and then see what happens this year.

  18. Carol J on May 16, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Thank you, Phil. My best to you always.My challenges are the mildew on my Calamondin Lime tree (which grows in a very very large pot) and the layout of my postage stamp sized garden. I built a nice curved walkway from my back door to the back gate using natural stones and stepping stones I made myself. I have Okinawan Sweet Potatoes growing like crazy on one side of it and soon I will dig down and see how the roots are doing. The leaves make a nice green leafy vegetable. Besides that I’m growing tomatoes, Tongan hibiscus (used as a leafy green veg), and all sorts of herbs. Mostly all are doing well. My insect invaders are the giant African snail, ordinary slugs, a bit of white fly and some unknown tiny critters that set up house on leaves. This year is much better than last, insect wise. I dream of a larger garden, but I have to keep tweaking the layout of it as I’m in a townhouse and there’s no chance of expansion.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Effective microorganisms along with biostimulants like liquid seaweed can help with mildew, as can a simple homemade recipe I’ll be sharing on Monday. I know a small lot can feel constricting, but it’s also very nice in some ways to really focus on getting the most from a small area. There’s something I really enjoy about that.

  19. Bonniea S on May 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    This is our second year gardening on our retirement property and Colorado potato beetles are again prolific. We pick them off at least a couple of times a day. We read that bush beans are supposed to deter them and are putting some in next to the potatoes this weekend. Hope that helps. Last year, predators arrived by the end of May to take over most of the battle. Hope they’re on time (or better yet, early) this year. Also a (hopefully helpful) observation:Here in East Texas we have observed that our melon vines naturally want to ramble southeast, but our squash and cucumbers want to ramble northwest. These tendencies can be used as a garden expansion tool. Plant melon on the south side and squash/cukes on the north side of the garden. Put a couple of layers of overlapping cardboard on the grass as the vines crawl far enough to hold them down. The grass (even Burmuda) will die off in a couple of seasons and decompose into thep soil. The ground will become suitable for planting with the microbial and fungal workers still in place… ready to nourish and protect our new crop. We are developing two acres of mostly field grass and whatever likes to grow with it. This method helps with that process, while taking only a little extra time to lay the cardboard… less time than we would have spent keeping the grass under control if we had not laid the cardboard.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks for those insights – very interesting.For your interest, from sustainable farming consultant Arden Andersen, Colorado potato beetle is a sign of a plant deficiency of calcium and phosphorus (which is the case for most pests) plus vitamin C, copper and manganese.

  20. Farrelly on May 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I have sandy soil and need to grow food. How to best make the soil goo? What about cover crops? When and what and when and how do I get rid of the cover crop. Most of my weeds are very deep. I would rather not give the weeds room to grow. I made compost from all last years food, but it was not very much, though I incorporated it in the garden. I am older, I have time but not a lot of energy and not much money. Any suggestions welcome.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Compost will help your sand, as will mulching with leaves and straw and other organic materials. Cover crops are a good idea too – a combination of grasses and legumes is often used. Your local garden center should have the types that are best for your area. Covers are usually planted in late summer and then tilled or hoed in early spring.

  21. ldramagal on May 16, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I have a problem with slugs. Also, last year I had zucchini and had hundreds of stink bugs show up. I didn’t plant zucchini this year, but the slugs have been all over the radishes I’ve gotten out of my garden already and they’re a problem every year.

    • Phil on May 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      Is your garden in a shady and/or wet spot? That’s a perfect place for slugs (and not perfect for a vegetable garden). Improving soil and plant health will gradually decrease their prevalence – I’ll be discussing how to do that in the next 2 blog posts.

      • ldramagal on May 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        Ours is not is such a wet or shady spot, but my neighbors have sprinklers going every day and I think they might come over from there.

  22. m on May 16, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    I have thousands of pesky maple keys sprouting all over my garden and lawn

    • Phil on May 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Haha, yep, that’s pretty common under a maple tree (would be really freaky if there was no maple tree in sight). The lawn mower will take care of them, but in the garden they need pulling or mulching.

  23. Brian Michael Shea on May 17, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Hi Phil. You are rocking the beard! Looks good. Welcome to the Bearded Brotherhood. LOL You were talking so fast in this video. Did you have a couple shots of espresso or something? 🙂 Or, too much dark chocolate?…Well, I’ve been disappointed with my foray into growing edibles. I didn’t get much to harvest, and what did come was, measly, deformed, or not terribly tasty. Also, some of the produce was snatched whether by human hands or little furry ones I can’t say. Some of it is directly my fault too. I don’t get over to my plot to water as much as I should and I lost a lot of seedlings to drought: the South Florida sun is merciless and dries the soil completely out in a day. My carrots were short and fat and some of them split open in the ground(and became public housing for bugs). I did manage to save quite a few, but I was not impressed with the flavor, or lack thereof. I tried cauliflower in three colors; purple, orange, and lime green. The lime green fruited,well, flowered, but it sort of looked like it bolted, The purple grew into huge, lovely looking plants, but I haven’t seen a cauliflower head yet(the same thing with my broccoli). The orange never made it past seedling stage. All my tomato seedlings,purple hot pepper, and my Swiss chard dried up(although the chard plant itself didn’t die, so I may get some chard yet) I got maybe five or six sugar snap peas My peppers, the seeds I planted never came up, however I did buy a plant at Home Depot. That one had peppers, but they either rotted or got snatched. Sounds like an epic fail, huh? However I am stubborn, and I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to plant my summer crop soon. I planted okra a couple days ago. I’m really exited about this pumpkin I got called the Seminole pumpkin. It’s a native Floridian, Everglades pumpkin that the Native Americans grew.

    • Phil on May 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing Brian. Ya, sometimes we forget about the simple things like proper watering, but that is one of the most important tasks in the garden. Doesn’t matter how much compost or fertilizer we apply – if the plants don’t have water, they’re doomed.

  24. Debra on May 21, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Hi Phil … love your sharing and “invitations” to ask … my dilemma is poor soil, yes I am trying to build it up, it seems to be taking soooo long. The beds I have available at the rental I’m in were used for flowers, there is hardly any soil, mostly compost. It has come from my cities’ compost site, but it definitely is not nutrient dense, more like dead. How long does it take? Any suggestions?

    • Phil on May 21, 2014 at 11:46 am

      It can take years to build up good soil, but it should get better each year.

  25. Russ Verkest on June 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    My biggest challenge this growing season has been my zucchini. My tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, french green beans, kale, swiss chard and jalapenos have done well, but with 4 beautiful squash plants, i got 6 nice zucchinis before they started dying. The insides of the base root and main stems coming out of the ground were eaten from the inside by insects. I use horticultural oil spray, neem oil spray, and my homemade garlic pepper spray. They all work well, but they did nothing to stop the squash from being destroyed. What do you suggest?

    • Phil on July 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      It all comes back to soil and plant health, as I discuss elsewhere on this site. If we work on improving our soil every year, these issues gradually go away.

  26. Sandy on August 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I have had a garden for 5 yrs. Raised beds. Soil has much clay and I am having problems with blight and veggie plants growing but then when harvested they look anemic such as carrots being light orange. Have used city compost for yrs but still have no worms. Where do I start in amending the soil?

    • Phil on August 4, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      I would actually back off the compost and focus more on balancing yours oil nutrients by sending a soil sample into a good organic lab and following their fertilizing recommendations. Compost is great, but too much can cause nutrient imbalances, which may be what you’re experiencing here.

  27. Janice on March 30, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I have a small veggie garden, but lots of flowers, should I use the same products on them that I am applying to my vegetable garden???

    • Phil on March 30, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Absolutely. Don’t overapply to the actual flowers though, as they can be delicate (isn’t usually a problem, but worth being mindful of – try to apply more to the leaves than the flowers when possible).

  28. Greta on May 31, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I have an area that was dug out some for an above ground swimming pool many years ago. The pool has been gone for years.Last summer I had it filled in with loam to create an area for growing winter squash. Here in Maine we have a lot of clay in our soil. Unless we have a week of sun this soil does not dry out enough to work. What would you recommend to turn it into good garden soil? The area is about 30’x30′. Also is mulching with wood shavings a good choice for wet soil or would it never dry out ?

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